Friday, October 16, 2009

Gilbert Arenas' silence indicates lack of self control


When I moved to the Washington D.C. area, I expected a few things:

An overdose of daily politics.

More than 100 losses by the Nationals each season.

And, of course, plenty of banter -- some ridiculous, some comical -- from the always-loquacious Gilbert Arenas.

While the first two expectations have come through, the third, startlingly, hasn't. Gilbert Arenas, or "Hibachi," the trash-talking, loose-lipped, oft-injured point guard of the Washington Wizards, suddenly can't talk.

Arenas is finally healthy after two seasons, basically, spent on the bench (he played in 15 of a possible 170 games), including almost all of last year when the Wizards were a dismal 19-63.

So he's back, he's feeling good, he's getting drafted high in fantasy leagues once again, he's making people around here feel optimistic about a possible huge turnaround for this team, which still has the steady Antawn Jamison and the All Star Caron Butler...

And he's refusing to talk.


Arenas spoke to reporters at media day. And since then, he hasn't uttered a peep to them.

Actually, that's not entirely true. The other day he decided to go all Rasheed Wallace, telling the press after a win, "Both teams played hard."

Thanks, Gilbert.

The only reason Arenas stated for talking at media day? To avoid being fined by the league. Well, the league has since fined him $25,000, rightly so, for refusing to talk to the media during the preseason (the team also incurred the same fine).

Look, I understand, kind of, what Arenas is trying to do. During the past few years, he became known more for his voice than for his play. His blog became hugely popular and writers could always wander over to his locker for a good sound bite.

The last two seasons, he's simply been known as an injury-plagued player.

So in the course of a few seasons, he's gone from one of the most highly regarded players in the Association to nobody special. And now, he wants to play his way back into the top echelon of players -- letting his play, entirely, do the talking.

But that doesn't mean Arenas can't talk.

As he could learn from hundreds of other pros -- ask your boy Jamison, ask Butler -- you can talk to the press without being self-aggrandizing or saying something controversial. Just talk about the game, about how you feel, about this play, about that play.

I've never been an NBA player, but is that really difficult?

Arenas, after all, isn't some 19-year-old rookie. He's 27 and is entering his ninth NBA season. He should be used to the grind, to the flocking of the press to a team's best players, to the hard questions after difficult losses.

What his silence speaks to is a lack of self control. Does he think that if he started talking, something unsavory would come out of his mouth? I have no idea what his real reasoning is, but the silence, regardless, demonstrates an immaturity that indicates Arenas simply isn't well-rounded enough to be one of the league's stars.

Maybe he'll go out and have an outstanding season. Maybe he'll get the Wizards back into the playoffs. But during that time, especially, a team needs its leader to step up and speak for it, to say the right things to relax the players in a tense situation.

Who knows whether Arenas will be talking come April (and I don't mean more "Both teams played hard" quotes)? Maybe a wealth of fines will have gotten to him, not that his wallet is feeling light -- in the summer of 2008, he inked a six-year, $111 million deal.

We'll have to watch and see.

But for now, Hibachi -- not that he goes by the nickname anymore -- is showing an immaturity and lack of self control that might just be a preview of his ability (or lack thereof) to lead this team to great things down the road.

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